[MARMAM] New publication: Social foraging in pilot whales

Fleur Visser fvisser at kelpmarineresearch.com
Tue Sep 23 04:33:39 PDT 2014

Dear all,
We are happy to announce our recent publication in Behaviour, describing the
social context of foraging behaviour in long-finned pilot whales. Observations of the focal group,
centred around a tagged whale, were made using a new protocol allowing quantitative sampling of
group-level behaviours. This method allowed us to solve the issues inherent to group sampling, and
to validate the relation between visual observations of surface behaviour with actual functional
behavioural state.
The social context of individual foraging behaviour in long-finned
pilot whales (Globicephala melas) (2014). Fleur Visser, Patrick J.O. Miller, Ricardo N.
Antunes, Machiel G. Oudejans, Monique L. Mackenzie, Kagari Aoki, Frans-Peter A. Lam, Petter H.
Kvadsheim, Jef Huisman & Peter L. Tyack. Behaviour 151:1473-1477. 
Long-finned pilot whales
(Globicephala melas) are highly social cetaceans that live in matrilineal groups and acquire their
prey during deep foraging dives. We tagged individual pilot whales to record their diving
behaviour. To describe the social context of this individual behaviour, the tag data were matched
with surface observations at the group level using a novel protocol. The protocol comprised two
key components: a dynamic definition of the group centred around the tagged individual, and a set
of behavioural parameters quantifying visually observable characteristics of the group. Our
results revealed that the diving behaviour of tagged individuals was associated with distinct
group-level behaviour at the water’s surface. During foraging, groups broke up into smaller
and more widely spaced units with a higher degree of milling behaviour. These data formed the
basis for a classification model, using random forest decision trees, which accurately
distinguished between bouts of shallow diving and bouts of deep foraging dives based on group
behaviour observed at the surface. The results also indicated that members of a group to a large
degree synchronised the timing of their foraging periods. This was confirmed by pairs of tagged
individuals that nearly always synchronized their diving bouts. Hence, our study illustrates that
integration of individual-level and group-level observations can shed new light on the social
context of the individual foraging behaviour of animals living in groups.

The pdf is available
at: http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/1568539x-00003195
email: fvisser at kelpmarinereseach.com
All the

Dr. Fleur Visser

Principal scientist

Kelp Marine Research



Post-doctoral research fellow

Behavioural Biology Group - Leiden University

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